This article originally appeared in the October 2020 issue.
This Cummins-powered truck has some unique looks and a unique story to match. It has come a long way to get to where it is today. What’s even more impressive is that the truck is female-owned! That’s right, this 2003 Dodge RAM 2500 named Monty, one of the first common rail 5.9L-powered models, is owned by Michaela Gulczynski who lives in East Troy, Wis., about a half hour outside of Milwaukee. She has owned the truck for a long time and has enjoyed every minute of owning it through all the ups and downs on the road to restoration. If you saw the truck today without first reading this article or meeting Michaela, you wouldn’t believe it’s a 2003!
Living the High Life
“Monty was my first vehicle I ever bought and it is still my daily vehicle,” Michaela says. “The truck was pretty rusty with 180,000 miles on it when I bought it. I did a major restoration on the beast and then took it in for paint and I have been building the engine ever since.”
She works a regular job as a nurse, but her hobbies are all about the diesel life. The truck is her largely seasonal daily driver as well as her performance show horse.
“I used to daily it year-round before I did the rust repair two winters ago,” she says. “Now it’s mostly a summer vehicle.”
Of course, that’s understandable. The snow and ice during the winter along with the salt on the road does form a lot of rust and corrosion. It would certainly ruin the looks of a nice truck like Monty. Being in Wisconsin, Michaela does have to put up with lots of snow and ice during the winter. During the warm season, Michaela uses her Cummins for a lot of local sled pulls and drag races.
“I also attend the UCC and Scheid Diesel Extravaganza,” she says. “I want to take my truck to Rudy’s Diesel Performance events. If I’m not performing, I’ll show the truck off at show ‘n shines.”
She drives her truck to the events, so she performs with what she’s comfortable with so she can drive it home. The paint scheme, completed by a local MAACO shop, very closely resembles Sinister Diesel’s Sinister Blue color. Monty also uses some Sinister parts and is sponsored by the brand for the many events Michaela participates in. The flag decal on the tailgate gives the truck a patriotic touch, making the color scheme look very police-esque.
“I chose the blue because it’s my favorite color,” Michaela says. “I wanted a blue that was different, bold, new, and something no one else had. It only took three weeks for me to pick that shade! The guy who painted it has over 25 years of experience so it’s flawless.”
Michaela has a profound respect and enthusiasm for the military, first responders, and everything the U.S. stands for. In fact, she’s actually looking to get involved in the military soon. “I’m in the U.S. Air Force this fall,” she adds.
Michaela’s other sponsors with their upgrades on the truck include Industrial Injection, Ultimate Transmission, and Mishimoto. Based on how Monty appears now compared to how it looked back then, you can immediately tell Michaela is a courageous person who works hard to achieve her dreams.
In the winter of 2018, Michaela began her big refurbishment in her garage, giving Monty a 2006 front end conversion, which included new fenders, along with a new hood, bed, bumpers, headlights and taillights, rocker panels, and cab corners. Of course, this is the main reason you’d think this truck isn’t a 2003, as the Dodge lineup underwent its big facelift for 2006. There are some cases where we try to make our trucks look as new as possible, but there are restrictions due to design limitations, and the 2006 facelift is the most fitting for this particular truck. It still looks noticeably newer, though. Michaela didn’t find the process super hard overall, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t present challenges for her.
“The restoration was actually pretty simple, but time-consuming,” she says. “I always kept an LMC Truck catalog on hand for referencing parts. The fenders, bed, bumpers and hood are all bolt-on, but the rockers and cab corners were the harder part.”
Michaela purchased the body panels online, measured where she needed to trim and cut them, drilled the tack welds out, and then grinded out the old rusty rockers and cab corners. After that, she fitted the new ones and welded them into place. Soothing out the lines and curves took a few hours of work. She also fixed up Monty’s frame and applied an undercoating to it to prevent rust. To further prevent rust, she used stainless steel rocker panels. With all said and done, the truck already looked like a brand-new machine.
Restoration isn’t the only striking aspect about Monty the blue Cummins. The performance upgrades are quite impressive as well. The undercarriage consists of a Zone 6-inch lift kit with a Rough Country steering stabilizer and Flight Fabrications traction bars, all sitting on Method Race Wheels 20-inch rims wrapped in 37-inch Nitto Terra Grappler tires. The tires are well-balanced for various terrains, but they work especially well for the competitive high-performance lifestyle Michaela lives; on top of that, they’re generally quiet on the road. The truck does spend a decent amount of time off-road as well, though.
“I’ve done a few dirt drags with the truck in those tires but not often and not recently,” she says.
To go along with the limited dirt drags, cleaning the truck after an off-roading adventure can be a real pain, but this one cleans up so well; that always makes a build even more impressive!
As some might expect with a competition vehicle, the engine upgrades on Michaela’s Cummins will blow you away. Fuel system, block, and head upgrades include 25-percent-over 100-horsepower injectors and an 85-percent-over 9-millimeter CP3 pump from Industrial Injection, an AirDog II-4G 165 lift pump, Hamilton pushrods and valve springs, and ARP head studs and gaskets. Also on the engine are a second-generation exhaust manifold swap, a custom compound turbo kit that includes the 63-millimeter Fleece Cheetah and 84-millimeter BorgWarner turbos, a Mishimoto intercooler, and cold/hot charge pipes and an intake horn from Sinister Diesel. Topping off the engine side is a 5-inch stainless exhaust with a 12-inch tip.
For tuning, the engine uses the MADS Electronics Smarty S06 TNT-R. Behind the flywheel is an Ultimate Transmission Competition Series 1,000hp billet 48RE transmission with a Mishimoto transmission cooler. Of course, Michaela would need that for such a highly-tuned engine, especially considering the many problems Dodge transmissions are known to encounter when not upgraded with the engine.
She’s Not Done Yet
It’s crazy to think Michaela isn’t done building Monty yet, considering how accomplished it is. However, she really is far from done. Builds are a challenge, but they can be so much fun. In the future, she plans to further rebuild both the front and rear end and use a different compound turbo setup as well as MM3 tuning.
“I definitely am at my 800hp daily goal so I’m going to clean up the engine bay with new OEM parts to replace the old rusty stuff,” she says. “In addition to rebuilding my front and rear end, I’ll eventually invest in an even better suspension.”
She also would love to have her engine bay cleaned up (i.e. cleaning up the wires and relocating the batteries) for a better show-quality appearance. The list of things to do to keep improving the truck goes on and on.
“I never plan on getting rid of my truck,” she laughs. “If the engine goes, I’ll replace it!” COVID-19 delayed all her plans for dyno-based performance events this year, but she plans to pick that up again when the spread of the virus slows down enough. In the meantime, she continues to live quite the life with the Sinister Blue-like beast.
“Follow me on my Instagram @cumminsgal!” she says. “I promise I won’t bore you!” She has quite a following on the platform and plenty of posts about Monty the blue Cummins to keep you entertained and coming back for more.
Automotive Racing Products
Fleece Performance Engineering
Method Race Wheels